Braves still in hunt for NAC Stars title

VERNON — With a 64-61 win Tuesday, the Badger Braves tied their highest win total since 2005, when they were district champs.

The win over Maplewood keeps the Braves contending in a hot race for the Northeastern Athletic Conference Stars Division title, where they are battling with the Grand Valley Mustangs.

“They (Badger) shot well. They shot the ball really well tonight,” Maplewood coach Joe Bornemiss said. “(Logan) Popovich ended up with 26. That’s a good shooting team. I thought our kids did a lot of good things tonight. We had 34 rebounds, 23 on the defensive end, 11 on the offensive end. That’s big for us. I like how we played, but we just made some mistakes. I thought our free-throw shooting was a little bit down tonight. It seems like whenever we play Badger, they’re pretty good games.”

For the Braves (12-5, 9-3 NAC Stars), it was a matter of holding off the Rockets.

“We weathered the storm,” Badger coach Joshua Upshire said. “We got into foul trouble in the second half, we shot 4 of 14 from outside the paint in the first half. We made some shots in the second half and that was the difference. Kudos to Maplewood. They did a great job, had a great gameplan to defend us and it worked for most of the game. We just made shots in the second half.”

Logan Popovich led the Braves in points (26) and steals (three), all but five of Popovich’s points came in the second half, scoring 11 in the third quarter and 10 in the fourth. Junior Aiden Miller had 16 points and tied for the lead in rebounds with Bobby Myers with six.

“Logan (Popovich) is one of those kids, that in open gyms and practice, once he makes one, and gets a feel for it, you see what he can do,” Upshire said. “He’s a special kid and we’re going to miss him next year. I’m glad we could come out and get a win for him and the other seniors on senior night.”

Hunter Bates had a double-double for the Rockets, with 21 points and 11 rebounds — leading the team in both categories. Jared Bedlion had 16 points and seven rebounds.

“One of our goals for today was to outrebound them,” Upshire said. “We know that Jared (Bedlion) is really good on the boards, and we didn’t get him checked out today, he did a great job on the boards.”

Both teams cap off their regular seasons against the Lakeview Bulldogs before beginning postseason play in the Division IV Orwell District.

Maplewood (7-13, 5-9) squares off against Newbury in the first round, while Badger is scheduled to face Chalker. A win for Maplewood sends them to Willoughby to face Cornerstone Christian. A victory for the Braves has them squaring off against the Windham Bombers.

“We’ll continue to practice hard,” Bornemiss said. “We had a really good practice last night and we brought that effort tonight. I told the kids if they continue to play like this, hard like this and not turn the ball over, and not make too many bad mistakes, we’ll be able to play in a lot of games.”